You might have heard people talking about having had culture shocks when abroad. But did you know that there is also thermology for the opposite? Reverse culture shock, it is called.
I heard the first time about reverse culture shock on my last semester of my undergraduate program, and I thought; that’s me!
As explained before in my first post about life abroad, I return to Denmark from Spain but I only lasted half a year in Denmark before I was boarding a plane to Cuba. Now I’m in Argentina. So, why do I think that I suffer from a constant reverse culture shock?
Keep on reading, and find out more! And, please feel free to share your own experiences on adjusting to new cultures in the comments below! I will love to hear from you!
Culture shock – what it is?
Let’s first define what a culture shock is. The concept of culture shock refers to having issues coping with the foreign culture of the place where one is visiting. It is said that culture shock usually happens in four stages:
- Honeymoon: you are overwhelmingly positive and excited about everything in the new culture
- Frustration: you begin to feel annoyed by not understanding gestures, signs and language, and feel that miscommunication happens way too often for you. This might ticker a feeling of frustration.
- Adjustment: the frustration tends to disappear as you get more familiar and comfortable with the culture and people of the new place.
- Acceptance: you might still not completely understand the new culture; thus, you realize that a complete understanding might not be necessary for you to function in this new environment.
According to research, some experience the different phrases at a different speed. In small trips, you might just stay in the honeymoon phrase. However, most who have lived abroad for a longer amount of time might recognize themselves in some of these steps. Read more about culture shock here.
Reverse culture shock – what it is?
The concept of reverse culture shock is used about people who have issues re-adjusting to their home country’s culture after having been abroad for a while. Just like the culture shock, reverse culture shocks happen in stages:
First, you are excited about going home. But then, after a while, when the first excitement wears off, you start feeling out of place, restless and bored in your own culture. Eventually, this second stage of frustration will also wear off, and you will gradually begin to adjust back to being comfortable with being in your own culture.
Reverse culture shocks are normally not as discussed as “normal” culture shocks, and most people are not aware that they might have issues re-adjust to their own culture. For that reason, it can even be harder to cope with than culture shocks which we are aware might happen. Read more about reverse culture shock here.
Me and culture shocks
The first time in Denmark after returning from Spain, I was excited. Everything was so familiar, and I could do all the things I have missed while in Spain; going to the fitness on late hours, riding my bike everywhere, eating rugbrød (e.g. Danish dark bread) for lunch every day. I started an undergraduate program. Everything seemed fine. But…
After a while, I started to get restless. The things that had excited me in the beginning, got boring. I felt out of place. I wanted narrow colonial streets, and tapas by the river, and speaking Spanish all the time…
My solution: I booked a one-way ticket to Cuba! Cuba was a real culture shock. It was just what I needed.
When I went back to Denmark from Cuba, I started an undergraduate program in Spanish and business, and I enjoyed it a lot more than the previous one. That kept my enthusiasm going. After a while, I moved to Sweden but still commuted to Denmark every day for the university. It was two very similar but at the same time distinct cultures, and it kept me eager for learning more cultures going. It lasted for 2 years…
Just enough time to reach the time in my program which called for a semester abroad. I was starting to get bored with Denmark. With the Danish language. With expectations and stress.
Argentina was a needed change. As you properly found out by now. I chose to stay in Argentina after my exchange semester ended.
So, why a constant reverse culture shock?
Since I returned from Spain, I never stayed long enough in Denmark to re-adjust to the Danish way of life. Instead of coping with the frustration and feeling out of place in my own culture, I run away.
I never allowed myself to get past the stage of frustration and feeling out of place in my own culture. It is as I like Denmark… But the most when I’m away!
Maybe it is my own fault that I don’t re-adjust to Denmark. Maybe it is because I just feel better abroad. I don’t know.